Victoria Road Precinct DCP: My Council speech

The 28 August 2018 meeting of Inner West Council saw us debate whether to adopt the revised development control plan (DCP) for the recently rezoned Victoria Road Precinct in Marrickville. Council's strategic planning and legal teams had recommended not to do this, as the contributions plan that compels developers to pay for infrastructure upgrades needs to be revised to match the new zoning. They advised that approving the DCP before this is done could leave Council facing costs of up to $50 million with limited ability to claim this from developers.

The Mayor, Darcy Byrne, moved that we adopt the DCP instead, which passed after all the Labor and Liberal councillors, plus Victor Macri, supported it. Here's the transcript of the speech I made during the debate on the night, explaining why I couldn't support this, and would be voting for what our officers had recommended instead.

I'm also supporting a rescission motion to overturn this decision at the next Council meeting on Tuesday 11 September. If you'd like to speak at this meeting, you'll need to register on Council's website by 2pm Tuesday. The meeting starts at 6:30pm at Ashfield Council Chambers. It's Item 18 on the agenda.

I wanted to address this matter because I have actually been contacted by a lot of people who are concerned about the risks raised in this.

I’ve also, because I realise this is a complex issue that goes back many years, I have taken the time to go back through some of the old reports, through some of the motions that went through under the administration. I went to the meeting the Mayor convened with members of the development team as well as the Dept of Planning, and have had extensive conversations with the head of our strategic planning and legal team.

I’ll be supporting Clr Hesse’s foreshadowed motion, purely because I think we have some very strong advice here from our internal Council staff that there is a risk. And whether it is up to $50 million, or it is just whatever gap remains between the existing Contributions Plan and that potential figure. Which may be $50m, it may not, part of the problem is we haven’t yet done that work as a Council to determine exactly what upgrades will be needed.

That - to me, I could not in good conscience go back to the community saying I had disregarded that very clear advice on a development that is going to significantly transform this particular area in many ways. That is absolutely going to give rise to a need to invest in infrastructure to that area, and then have to turn around to them and say that I took a vote tonight that opened up a risk that meant that we could not claim the amount of money we need in order to cover those costs. 

I completely understand that the DA that is in front of Council at the moment in terms of the Rich Street Creative Hub does not give rise to those risks. That’s not the issue we’re dealing with here.

What we are looking at is the 1,100 additional residences that are potentially added to this area under the rezoning, plus the commercial properties that will come in here, that are absolutely going to require upgrades to drainage, to roads, to open space, and so on and so forth, that we should, as a Council, do the work to determine and budget for before we go ahead with this.

I appreciate that what the officers have raised is exactly that – a risk – as opposed to a realised, definable, absolutely-this-will-happen scenario. But this is the thing: it’s a risk, but it’s a big risk. And it’s not one I would be comfortable pushing our community down for the sake of waiting 6, 12, 18 months to get this right. 

I appreciate this has gone through the process for about five or six years. But this is a substantial rezoning, in an area that’s already heavily built up, that is going to be seeing more development even though it’s well and truly hitting its population growth targets. So we need to get the planning for this right. We deal with so much fallout from poor planning, I think it would be really remiss of us not to do the job properly.

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